My optimism about the demise of East Link prompted me to post the following:
The east side without East Link would no longer have residents along the route fearful of losing their homes or having their lives disrupted by years of light rail construction or a lifetime of noise from train operation. The entire city would benefit from no longer having to pay the $200 million Sound Transit extorted for a tunnel. Those funds could be used for local road improvements. A beautiful tree lined boulevard would be saved and the quiet solitude of the Mercer Slough Park would remain untouched by light rail tracks, 5000-volt power lines, and the noise from light rail trains.
The benefits would go far beyond the route into Bellevue. I-90 commuters would no longer need to endure the current congestion or the immeasurable increase from closure of the bridge center roadway. Instead Sound Transit could expedite the addition of the 4th lanes on the I-90 Bridge outer roadways for non-transit HOV easing congestion for cross-lake commuters in both directions.
The center roadway could be divided into two-way bus only lanes with bus rapid transit (BRT) service providing direct routes into Seattle from all the area P&R lots and Bellevue T/C. Current routes would be retained for those who need the intermediate stops. The increased number of mass transit riders would reduce congestion throughout the area.
Mercer Island residents would lose SOV center roadway access since safety requirements would preclude SOV and non-transit HOV access to the two-way center roadway. However, their commutes would be far better than with East Link because of reduced congestion on the outer roadway and “exclusive” access to direct BRT routes into Seattle on center roadway.
Stopping East Link would also benefit Bel Red area development. No longer would it be faced with noisy light rail trains trundling through every 4-8 minutes for 20 hours a day or the “eye sore” of a huge maintenance facility for overnighting trains. It would be replaced with a South Lake Union type streetcar system whose schedule will be determined by local demand not something dictated by the number of trains in Sound Transits futile attempt to meet cross-lake commuter needs.
The streetcars could follow either parallel tracks or a circular route though the area with frequent stops providing far better access than two light rail stations. It would include an overpass of 405 to reach the Bellevue T/C and BRT service to and from Seattle. Bel-Red could become a magnet for businesses and an attractive place for people to live, visit, and work. And it could be operating by 2016 not 2023.
Again, this is my vision of an east side without East Link. I’m optimistic those with the power to make it a reality will do so.